Nothin’ But Net

The Big East Tournament Live in NYC.

After hosting the NBA All-Star Game last month, New York once again is the stage for some great basketball in March.  This time, the college game takes center court, as one of the country’s elite conferences, The Big East, hosts its championship tournament.  The Big East Tournament returns to Madison Square Garden, its home since 1983.  The winner of this tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA championships.  With so much at stake, the competition is fierce, and the games are thrilling.

The Big East Conference has had an impressive season, with 7 of its 10 teams having been nationally ranked at some point this season.  The tournament is well known for its close games, buzzer-beater finishes, and raucous NYC crowds.  The arena gets particularly loud for Queens-based St. John’s University, as well as national favorites and longtime Big East members Georgetown and Villanova. Villanova is the favorite to win the league this year, as it has spent most of the season as a top-10 team.  They will hope to succeed Providence, last year’s champion.  The tournament tips off with 2 games on Wednesday March 10th, followed by four games on Thursday March 11th and the semifinals on Friday March 12th. The finals take place in primetime on Saturday March 13th, beginning at 8pm.

Madison Square Garden is not just the “World’s Most Famous Arena” but also the epicenter of basketball in New York City.  Although it is best known as the home to the Knicks, it has a long and illustrious history of top-level college basketball.  In addition to playing part-time home to St. John’s as well as a number of great neutral-site games throughout the year, it is the long-time home for the Post-Season National Invitational Tournament. This year the NIT semifinals will take place on March 31st with the Finals two days later, on April 2nd.  Many NIT champions have used the title as the springboard to greater success the following year.

If you won’t be attending the games, but still want to be a part of the “Madness,” there are many great bars and restaurants in New York City that get into the action.  If your basketball appetites run more towards the south, head to Brother Jimmy’s (multiple locations, including 416 8th Avenue at 31st street).  Fans of the ACC schools gather here (think Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Notre Dame) for great hoops and delicious food.  If you have a group, be sure to order lots of chicken wings and rib tips, and wash it down with one of their famous “Fish Bowls.”   When the NCAA tournament begins on Thursday March 19th, few places are better prepared than Hudson Common (356 West 58th St. at Columbus Avenue) located at the Hudson Hotel.  With 10 flat screens and a 100-inch projection screen you won’t miss any of the action.  Coolers of beer are rolled to your table, special themed burgers, and all kinds of wings are available- there’s no reason to leave! If the action on the court leaves you inspired, head to the adjacent park for some “pop-a-shot” action.  And don’t just root for your favorite team- they set up a bracket to vote for your favorite burgers as well!

When March Madness hits New York, be prepared for all of the action! For information on tickets, go to bigeast.com, ncaa.com or check with your hotel concierge.